Republicans are confronting worried constituents over Obamacare for the second straight week, a GOP senator’s stance on Planned Parenthood funding raises eyebrows and yet another state wants to make big changes to its Medicaid program.
But first: Health insurers are headed to CMS today for a big meeting with the agency’s new administrator, Seema Verma.
VERMA HOSTS ANXIOUS HEALTH INSURERS — The CMS chief is meeting today with a big group of insurance executives and trade organizations amid growing uncertainty over whether the Trump administration will pull $7 billion of critical cost-sharing funding out from under insurers on the Obamacare exchanges. The powwow is scheduled to touch on several topics across Medicare, Medicaid and the individual insurance markets. But the top priority is what the White House plans to do with Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies.
Insurers are urging the administration to continue the payments, which are funneled through insurers to help pay for enrollees out-of-pocket costs. Top business and consumer groups are also hoping the funding will remain in place, warning that cutting it off would spark an exodus of insurers from the market. But President Donald Trump has toyed with pulling the money in a bid to force Democrats to negotiate over the broader plan to repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
The attendee list. Oscar Health Insurance — the startup co-founded by White House senior advisor Jared Kushner’s brother Josh — is slated to be there. Big regional players like Molina Healthcare, Geisinger Health Plan and Florida Blue are also scheduled to attend, in addition to representatives from AHIP and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
Notably absent: Aetna. The insurance giant — which has yet to commit to participating on the exchanges in 2018 — won’t be there because the meeting was organized through BCBSA and AHIP, the trade group that Aetna broke from last year. But that’s no big deal for Aetna — its CEO, Mark Bertolini, secured a one-on-one meeting with Verma a few weeks back, according to a source familiar with the sit-down.
TOWN HALL WHIPAROUND
Heller open to federal dollars for Planned Parenthood. Nevada Sen. Dean Heller told constituents at a town hall he has “no problems” with letting federal funds flow to Planned Parenthood, potentially complicating any GOP push to defund the women’s health organization.
“I do not have a problem with Planned Parenthood as long as they provide the health care services that you need — for my children, for your children, for everybody,” Heller said.
The swing-state lawmaker, one of the few Senate Republicans facing a tough re-election fight in 2018, later hedged his position, suggesting that Planned Parenthood should be funded for “some of the activities” that occur there. Still, Heller’s stance is notable — his vote could stand in the way of Republican attempts to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal dollars, Pro’s Jennifer Haberkorn reports. GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins are already publicly opposed to defunding the organization. More from Jen here.
Texas’ Barton toes the line on Obamacare. Rep. Joe Barton waited for years to tear down Obamacare. But now that the Texas Republican finally has the chance to do it, he’s hesitating, Pro’s Renuka Rayasam reports. Like many of his House colleagues, Barton is stuck between keeping his long-held promise to repeal Obamacare and preserving the benefits that the health law has brought to his district. The uninsured rate in Texas’ sixth district hit 13.9 percent in 2015, down from 20.8 percent the year Obamacare was enacted. Safety net clinics have served thousands more uninsured patients with the increased funding provided by the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re very concerned — it takes money to keep the place open,” said Hope Clinic CEO Barbara Clark. “Whatever…